The Awards Show
The main event has come and gone. The hardware was passed around at Disney World, and then Sam Bradford strode to the podium last night to collect another Oklahoma Heisman. Meanwhile, all is quiet in South Bend as the Irish go dark for the next four days to concentrate on exams (they'll resume practice on Thursday, for those players with no Friday tests, then practice 20-23 in Hawaii before the bowl game).
So we figured it was time to dish out the second annual edition of our own personal awards here at Section 29. Unfortunately there were a few members of the board who decided they were too cool for voting this year, but we saw overall good turnout. The voters:
Thomas McCall/"Broadway" Joe Long (submitting a joint ballot)
Michael Devitt (Mike D)
And now, the envelopes please...
TM/B: Michael Floyd/Golden Tate. 7 TDs each on the season. These two have potential.
PJ: My vote is Bruton... let's face it, the offense stunk the second half of the year. Outside of the USC game it was our defense that fought their hearts out and kept us in games. Bruton anchored the most solid secondary I've seen in years.
MD: Floyd. When he left, the offense disappeared with him. I was tempted to give Bruton the nod, but I think the drop-off with Floyd's injury showed his value to this team.
GH: Several members of the defense have a case, specifically Brian Smith and the aforementioned Bruton. But I have to join in singing the praises of Mike Floyd, because we saw the debilitating effect of his absence during the final two games.
Winner: Michael Floyd, WR. Who, as you might possibly be aware, went to Cretin-Derham Hall in Minnesota. To say that a star was born is a bit of an understatement - Floyd set freshman records with 46 catches, 702 yards, 7 TDs, and did so while missing three full games (he was injured on about the 3rd play from scrimmage vs. Navy).
The Julius Jones Award - Breakout Offensive Player
TM/B: Sir Floyd. After the Stanford game, the AP reported that Mary was allegedly seen shifting slightly to the left atop the dome to prepare room for Floyd after the 2010 NFL draft (sorry, Chuck Lennon, he's leaving early).
PJ: Agree with Tmac and Joe, Floyd was an instant success.
MD: Floyd again for the reasons above. Even Golden "Is Thy" Tate was a different player without Floyd on the other side of the field.
GH: I was tempted to say Kyle Rudolph just for the sake of being an iconoclast, but Floyd was without question the real deal.
Winner: Floyd, marking the second consecutive year this award has gone to a wide receiver. Here's hoping Floyd avoids the sophomore slump which plagued Duval Kamara.
The Wes O'Neill Award - Breakout Defensive Player
TM/B: Pat Kuntz. His head was more diverse than an Obama affirmative action program. Who else deserves this award? Crum a close 2nd. Actually...we are going to save this for next year and give out two.
PJ: Brian Smith. He's a player I look forward to watching that will hopefully step into the leadership role that Mo Crum is vacating.
MD: Pat Kuntz. I don't know if he really "broke out" this year, but the man deserves an award. He is a crazy, but I love him.
GH: Brian Smith. A year ago he was an entirely raw engine, motoring around with occasional success. This season he became a true playmaker.
Winner: Kuntz/Smith. Kuntz came back with a vengeance after missing spring ball due to being absent from the University, leading the team in sacks. Smith and his sharer of the surname, Harrison, paced the Irish linebackers and actually gave rise to hope for the 3-4 defense under the Dome.
The Sean Calloway Award
Given to that individual who produces maximum results despite limited vertical and physical attributes, proving most definitely that great things can come in small packages.
TM/B: Mike Anello. He's basically Ken Girouard, domer to the end of all, not wearing all black, without a cool phone/PDA, and slightly more athletic. Noboby loves ND more than Anello.
PJ: I feel as though I would be slandering my own good name as a little guy if I didn't vote for Anello. I hope he gets to hang out at the Maui Sheraton and have mai tais delivered to him as his leg heals. This guy really does give 200%
MD: Mike Anello. Let's start the chant now, "One more year, one more year!"
GH: Golden Tate made a serious challenge, but teams keyed on him and limited his production down the stretch. Yet no matter how hard the opposition tried, they could not keep Anello from making plays.
Winner: Mike Anello, who should truly feel insulted at this point with all the Rudy comparisons.
The Russell Carter Award
Last year we introduced the Chris Thomas Award, commemorating that individual who, while a standout player, never quite seemed to live up to the hype surrounding his career. This year, we honor the memory of Russell Carter, who never quite had any hype but finally did start to produce in a starring role during his senior season as Notre Dame's basketball captain. So we focus on the fact that these players showed up at all, rather than complain about them showing up late.
TM/B: Brandon Walker, K. If the season were a college party, he showed up late, but still got the job done late in the game on the beer pong table. And as an added bonus - he was 32/32 on extra points for the season.
PJ: Terrail Lambert. Considering he's the Gerry McNamara of college football and I've screamed his name in disgust for so long in the past... he finally turned the tables and contributed to the team. He just happened to be ranked the 36th-best cornerback in the nation by Phil Steele for `08.
MD: Kyle McCarthy. He led the team in tackles (sadly). The defense played well more often than not this year, but when are we going to have a linebacker lead the team in tackles!?!
GH: Kyle McCarthy. Whine if you must about a defensive back as the team's surest tackler, but considering where Kyle's come from (a last-minute addition to the so-called "worst class in Notre Dame history") the contributions he made were quite significant. If Tom Zbikowski were as solid an open-field tackler as the football team's KMac, who knows what might have been.
Winner: Kyle McCarthy, S. He'll join with Harrison Smith next year to produce a solid and, more incredibly, all-white safety tandem.
The George Carlin "Of Course it Was Pre-Recorded, When Else Are You Gonna Record It, Afterwards?!?" Award
If you've not been privy to George Carlin's riff on airline announcements (likely one of the top 5 comedy routines of all time), do not pass go, do not collect $200 - go straight here. Then you'll know who's eligible for this award.
TM/B: Chris Marinelli, OL, Stanford.
PJ: This award has to be split... First is the Indiana State Excise Police for being raging ego-centric power hungry buffoons and sadly the second person is Will Yeatman. I realize he got a raw deal but I literally shouted 'WTF!' at the top of my longs when I heard he got in trouble for drinking a second time. I feel like a total hypocrite saying he shouldn't drink as a minor considering we all did, but if I had been busted it would have only affected me...not my whole (hypothetical) football team.
MD: I'm going to go with Tom Hammond and Pat Haden. I know they aren't players/coaches, but I am dumbfounded by most of what they say.
GH: Had I been stupid enough to watch the game with the sound on, I probably would've given the award to Bob Davie for what I'm sure was dynamite commentary on the ND-Washington game. But I've got to give the award to Steve Brown, who carried on the legacy of Kordell Stewart's "The Best Team Doesn't Always Win" BS after the ND-Michigan game.
Winner: You know, each and every one of these guys (save Will Yeatman, who did in fact get a real raw deal and may not return to the University at all) is worthless in their own special way. They can all share the award.
The Get Smart Award
Commemorating that moment of the 2008 football season where the difference between brilliance and catastrophe was "THAT much".
TM/B: The entire Syracuse football team...and any students who threw snowballs at the ND sideline that ominous day.
PJ: Floyd's fumble on the 7-yard line against the Tar Heels. To think what would have happened if we had scored on the next play to win the game. How would it have changed the season?
MD: The start of the second half of the UNC game. Something changed with that interception. A little better throw and things might have been a lot different, but probably not.
GH: The closing 2 minutes and overtime of the Pittsburgh game. ND finds a way to win that one and they possibly go 3-1 in November to close 8-4, play in a January 1st bowl and at least have a chance at a big springboard to next season. Or not. Could've gone either way.
Winner: Seems to be a split among fans as to whether it was UNC or the Pitt game where things headed south, but by popular vote the UNC game takes the honor.
The MoStovall Senior Year of Vengeance Award
Given to the returning junior/senior with the most to prove in 2008 following a lackluster career thus far.
TM/B: Jimmy Clausen. At this point in his career, the "Lebron James of High School Football" has a better chance to enter Moreau Seminary than enter the National Football League. It's time for him to step up...and make plays. And we believe he will do this next year.
PJ: I agree with Tmac and Joe, it has to be Jimmy. I'm really curious how he'll play knowing [Dayne] Crist is right behind him nipping at his heels.
MD: Any and all returning offensive lineman. They need to get it together, but I'm not sure I can put it all on them. Someone is supposed to be coaching them, right?
GH: Sam Young. Three years, 36 starts, and yet I still can't make heads nor tails of him. There are 12 games left in his college career. Can he finally play like a five-star?
Winner: Jimmy Clausen, QB. A junior by designation next year, he'll still be 22 and looked at as the unquestioned leader. Next year's the true make-or-break for him, so I can't dispute the choice even if I voted for Young.
Play of the Year
TM/B: Nothing from this year stood out, so how about this?
PJ: I vote for the entire Michigan game. In the wake of this mediocre year, it's nice to see Michigan where we were last year. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of guys.
MD: The first five minutes of the Michigan game.
GH: Sequence after the first TD vs. Michigan - Anello out-hearts everybody for a fumble recovery, followed by a fade TD to Kamara, and then later in the quarter a bomb to Tate. 21-0 before Rich Rod had his first sip of Gatorade.
Who's bringin' next year's "Change We Can Believe In!!!"?
TM/B: Charles Weis. Because if he doesn't, the nation's unemployment numbers will increase.
PJ: Whoever is our next offensive line coach. I suggest Hugh Nall of Auburn. Considering the coaching changes going on there, Weis might be able to scoop him up if the offer is right.
MD: I was hoping to give this one to Swarbrick. Let's hope he's not learning on the job too. I'll go with Charlie Weis' offseason staff changes. Hopefully they happen and hopefully they'll make me believe.
GH: I'm gonna stay between the hash marks and vote for Notre Dame's running backs. I know we all wanna pile on John Latina (and the performance of his charges certainly merits that) but at some point the running backs need to take charge and impose a little will. That's what made Darius Walker a different player - he routinely made plays when it looked like there was no play to be made. So to Aldridge, Allen, Hughes, Gray, & now Cierre Wood, I put the fate of the regime in your hands.
It's all on you, Charlie.